Denton's Notebook: December 21, 2011

By John Denton
December 21, 2011

ORLANDO – Other than occasionally reacting angrily to some lines of questioning surrounding his request to be traded, Orlando Magic superstar center Dwight Howard has yet to show any strains of the scrutiny that surrounds him on a daily basis.

But Howard is fearful of what a long season of questions and rumors could do to his mental state and said he’s trying to take safeguards to keep his focus only on the task at hand.

``It can (have an effect), but I just have to stay strong and focused on what I’m trying to accomplish and what our team is trying to accomplish,’’ Howard said prior to the Magic’s exhibition game against Miami on Wednesday. ``It’s going to be tough all year and I can’t get away from it. I’ll just continue to pray and stay strong and make sure that the people around me every day are there for me, and they are. It’s tough and a lot of people never have to deal with anything like this and they will only see it from one side. But when you have a big heart and you’re a great person things can be tough on you. But I’m going to remain who I am, have fun on the court and keep smiling.’’

One issue that could have cropped up is the relationship between Howard and Magic head coach Stan Van Gundy, but the two of them met last week to clear the air on some topics. Van Gundy said the meeting lasted more than an hour and some of the topics revolved around Xs and Os, the length of practices and shootarounds and their respective attitudes during games and workouts.

``Dwight and I talk all of the time and there are things that we agree on and things that we don’t,’’ Van Gundy said. ``We both want to win badly and that’s the most important thing. Dwight and I agree on about as much as any coach and player does. Dwight’s such an easy guy to coach because he’s smart and he’s great at executing game plans.’’

BABY TALK: Glen ``Big Baby’’ Davis was none too happy Wednesday when told that he would be coming off the bench, while Ryan Anderson would be starting in the Magic’s exhibition game against the Heat.

A big part of Davis’ motivation for leaving the Boston Celtics and signing with the Magic was getting an expanded role. Davis spent the first four years of his career as a backup to Kevin Garnett and has long wanted more playing time and more shots.

``No comment,’’ Davis said when asked about not starting. And when asked if he came to Orlando for more playing time, Davis gruffly said: ``What do you think?’’

Van Gundy said that because Davis is the Magic’s backup center behind Howard that it might necessitate him playing as a reserve. The Magic are hoping to use Howard, Davis and Anderson at the center and power forward slots. Van Gundy feels that first-round draft pick Daniel Orton isn’t ready and he prefers to use forward Earl Clark in a defensive role against high scoring small forwards.

Van Gundy said that Davis missing the first four days of training camp has also worked to his detriment. The sign-and-trade deal was held up because of a contract issue with Von Wafer, who was also included in the deal.

``(Davis) is getting in better shape,’’ Van Gundy said. ``(Tuesday) was the first day he was really able to push it really hard and sustain a good effort. He missed those first four practices and it’s been difficult on him.’’

GOOD TO BE BACK: The Amway Center was host to a NBA game Wednesday night for the first time in seven months dating all the way back to the playoffs last spring against the Atlanta Hawks.

The five-month lockout between the players and owners wiped out preseason and regular-season games in October, November and the first three weeks of December. Several businesses in downtown Orlando depend on the traffic created by Magic games and are undoubtedly happy to have the season set to begin this weekend.

Orlando opens in Oklahoma City on Christmas Day, but returns for the home opener on Monday to face the Houston Rockets.

``I’m happy for everyone who gets to go back to work. Everyone here at the arena was affected by the lockout from the ushers, parking attendants and valet guys. Some guys on Church Street told me about a month ago that their traffic had slowed down because of the lockout,’’ Magic guard J.J. Redick said. ``So I know there were a lot of businesses and individuals affected by the lockout and I’m happy that I city will get some return now.’’

Redick wanted to thank Magic fans for sticking by the team throughout the sometimes contentious lockout. Not that he was surprised by it considering the support that Magic fans have always shown the team. Orlando will enter the regular season sporting a string of 120 consecutive sellouts.

``This team and organization is important to this city and vice versa because this city is very important to us. I’ve always felt in my 5 ½ years here that there was a great relationship between our team and the fans,’’ Redick said. ``I know this lockout tested a lot of people’s patience and hopefully going forward that commitment on both sides will be renewed.’’

ETC: Among those in the crowd for Wednesday’s game Orlando-Osceola Chief Judge Belvin Perry and former Major League Baseball star Gary Sheffield. … Orlando’s Hedo Turkoglu did not play Wednesday after bruising his hip following a hard fall in Sunday’s loss to the heat. Turkoglu practiced on Tuesday and went through some drills Wednesday morning, but was held out for precautionary reasons. … Van Gundy said that reserve point guard Chris Duhon has had a solid training camp after struggling most of last season. He expects Duhon to bounce back this season. Said Van Gundy: ``Chris has already played a lot better in this camp than at any point last year. He seems a lot more comfortable now.’’

John Denton writes for OrlandoMagic.com. John has covered the Magic since 1997 and recently authored ``All You Can Be’’ with Magic center Dwight Howard. E-mail John at jd41898@aol.com

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